"I want to go back to my daddy, because my mommy gave my sister and me away!", says the nine-year old Ines*. There has been hardly a sentence spoken in the last few days that better sums up the situation of the 33 children. They all feel distinctively that they have been given away. Some thought they were going to some great school, some had no idea where the trip was taking them. But they had a sense that they wouldn't see their parents again.
With every day that passes, the actions of the ten Americans seem ever more questionable and outrageous. The thin veil of religious righteousness barely disguises a shocking arrogance and total disregard of the parents' human dignity as well as of the children's needs and best interests.
Just think: A group of self-proclaimed missionaries from one of the richest countries in the world travels to one of the poorest, one that has been hit by a dreadful disaster to boot. Once there, they convince parents that their children will lead a life of misery if they stay with them, that they are unfit to take proper care of them, and that they, the missionaries, know better how to give them a good life. This patronising attitude can not, in my opinion, be justified by any religion whatsoever. The love of the children for their parents, their relatives and their home, it would seem, is irrelevant. The paradise beyond the border that these people promise is one of material commodities only. Happiness, apparently, is an orphanage with a pool and a football field, is "having it all". All, that is, except for the trust in the love of one's own parents, the most important people in anyone's life. Affluence equals happiness. And this is supposed to be a religious creed? I think not.
* Name altered for reasons of privacy
Friday, 5 February 2010
Thursday, 4 February 2010
"We are still sleeping on the streets. Now at least we have a sheet to cover ourselves, but not much else." Soraja is just one of many who wait every day for the community to gather in her district and the arrival of the SOS bus. Food is distributed and the people immediately begin to cook communally.
"It's about more than just eating for us - we get together. It makes a welcome change that brightens up our everyday lives. After the meal the staff of SOS Children's Villages play with the children, and they laugh and dance together. This gives us and the children strength and confidence. We feel that we are not forgotten on the streets, and that someone is there for us.”
These are all things that families like Soraja's desperately need. Most of the children have coughs, worms and eczema from living on the street. There is an SOS Children's Villages nurse present at every visit so that essential treatment can be given.
In the days and weeks to come, SOS Children's Villages plans to extend these activities to the poorest districts, taking aid directly to the children. It will not just be a case of distributing food parcels, as the aim is also to empower communities to help themselves. And what's more, SOS Children's Villages can be sure that the food really reaches the ones that need it most urgently - the children.
Soraja sits at the side while her children sing and dance. Now and then a little smile flashes over her face, even though her eyes are looking beyond the moment into a future filled with worries. But these moments give her support and some hope, before she starts looking again for a place to sleep on the streets with her three young sons.
*Names altered to protect the children
Wednesday, 3 February 2010
The boys and girls were utterly dazed as well as hungry and thirsty. One baby, just two months old, was showing signs of dehydration. The children had no personal belongings with them, many were barefoot. They received immediate medical attention and care. All of us here at SOS Children’s Villages will do anything to find the parents or relatives of these children. In the mean time, we will give them protection and stability.
I also don’t like the idea of temporarily taking these children to the United States or Europe. Not only would this rob the children of any hope of being reunited with their family soon, which is all that matters to them now, it would also not be a good idea to allow a child to experience a “first world paradise” only to send them back to harsh reality in Haiti a few weeks later.
That’s why I’m glad the government has made it very clear that removing children from the country is prohibited at this time. The United Nations and all other children’s organisations share our opinion: do not permit hasty international adoptions!
While we do our best to give these children some calm and safety, rumours have been spreading that there have been more cases like this.